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  • Writer's pictureKate Clarke

Berkshire Girls

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

I keep thinking about those interviews Wilko Johnson did after he dodged the Grim Reaper. If anyone was going to side-step death it would be Wilko, with his nifty footwork and his none-shall-pass glare. I'm summarising, but he said being convinced his days were numbered made him appreciate the fine print of life he had previously overlooked. Colours were brighter, senses sharper, and he found himself in a constant state of euphoria. I have felt this way for weeks. It does nothing to neutralise the deep sadness - it simply seems to be grief's unsettling, unexpected twin. Whatever is going on, I'm grateful to have this endorphin-rich buffer.

I visited Dorset, one of my favourite parts of Britain, in July. Terry and I went there often.

During the trip, I found every country lane buzzing with life and offering up something Terry would have photographed. Our dogs chased jackdaws and seagulls, and the rusty water at Nothe Fort, nudged seaweed onto rocks like those hypnotic coin-pushers in the amusement arcades on Weymouth seafront.

Terry loved all this stuff. I can't believe he's missing the summer. It was his time of year. He's missing blackberry season, too. Often, during these months, Terry could be found down at the shady end of my mum's garden, in Tilehurst, with a coffee, notebook and pen. I was there a few weeks ago. He's missing Millie's easy, lively chatter, too. Millie, my niece, pleased Terry, with her comical ways, her robust, no-nonsense approach to life, her amber-eyed beauty and her broad Reading accent ('Tilehurst' is pronounced 'Toileurst' 'nine' is 'noine', 'no' is 'noiy'.) He enjoyed being Millie's audience. She's the only natural performer in our family - flute and keyboard, but mostly comedy and chutzpah.

She wants to change her name to something that fits her exotic looks more aptly, but she wants to keep her 'M' initial, for practical, administrative purposes. So, while I was staying with my folks, we discussed her options. Her dad has always had a colourful roster of nicknames for his daughter - she has been 'Moo' or 'Mildew' for as long as I can remember. (We are a thick-skinned brood).

She is leaning towards something more fragrant, like Mercy, Melody, or Magdalena. We, on the other hand, fancy Morticia, on account of her penchant for Halloween-ish eye make-up. Her grandmother favours Mañana, because of her laissez-faire attitude and her ability to sleep for 15 hours on the trot. Terry would have loved the noisy debate.

'I always loved a Berkshire girl

she can lay the way the river curls

sway like the poplars on the Caversham side

and burn like autumn on the chestnut ride'

Terry Clarke

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